When you’re the editor of a magazine, or a serial novelist, or an egg-laying chicken, your workload tends to rise and fall as your products are eventually completed and released to the public. It’s a great relief when a particularly tricky project is finally completed and off the desk (or out of the henhouse, as the case may be). That’s where I find myself right now.
No, I don’t mean in a henhouse. I mean I am in the final stages of finishing a new project that I am particularly proud of: “The Newbies Guide To Airstreaming.” It is a 104-page book designed to give new Airstream owners a “quick start” to traveling, camping, and owning their shiny Airstream travel trailer.
I’ve been working on this book for about eight months, with help from a few friends. The job has been to collect as much useful and accurate information about Airstreams (how they work, how to maintain them, what to expect) and summarize it into a format that people will actually find useful. There’s lots of information out on the Internet, but much of it is based on conjecture, or just plain wrong. Likewise, the Owner’s Manual provided by Airstream is full of useful facts, but it’s very dense and certain important facts are well obscured, so few people actually bother to read it. Rather than having to search hard for the basics, new owners will now have an easy guide to the stuff they need to know first.
Right now the book is in the final draft stage. Review copies are being printed this week and will be fact-checked by a team of experts at Airstream and in the Airstream community. Once I have the review copies back, I can make the final edits and release the book.
I expect we’ll have it out by April 2011, and it will be for sale at the Airstream online store, the Airstream brick-and-mortar store in Jackson Center OH, Amazon.com, and select Airstream dealers, for just $9.95. (I worked hard to make sure we could keep the price reasonable.) You can pre-order it now in the Airstream Life store for April 2011 delivery. We’ll have a Kindle edition, too.
A lot of thought went into this project. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it for several years, ever since I first saw the Airstream Owners Manual. It’s a bit rough, and has needed some updating. I have a small collection of manuals ranging from 1968 to 2005, and each of them uses nearly the same wording in places, the same advice, and the same checklists. There are bits of advice that go back 40 or 50 years, some of which are timeless and others which are … uh, not so much.
From a recent manual: “Avoid cash. Use Travelers Checks …” “Pack camera and film.” Yeah, along with those traveler’s checks and film camera, be sure to pack a spittoon, typewriter, and spare buggy whip. These days people are more concerned with carrying the iPhone, Gameboy, and laptop. Film? What’s that?
Teasing aside, I have to tip my hat to the Owner’s Manual. It does have much more info in it than I could ever get into a 104 page book, so in a few places I’ve deferred to it. But in most of the book I gave my best shot at succinct, practical and tested answers to the most commonly-asked questions and typical “newbie” problems. That’s what made it fun — finding the best possible answers so that people can get up to speed on the Airstream as quickly as possible.
The book has sections on all kinds of newbie topics: understanding all the systems, camping, towing, solar & generators, maintenance, winterizing, simple repairs (like changing tires), packing, backing, dumping, filling, winter travel, Internet, cleaning, tools, myths, and a few sample checklists. I think one of the best parts is the “Jargon Guide,” with eight pages of definitions of commonly used terms that newbies have probably never heard before.
I’m also really excited about the wonderful illustrations in the book. Brad Cornelius, who has been a regular contributor to Airstream Life for years (and also designed the Alumapalooza art for 2010 and 2011) agreed to make over 30 illustrations for the book. You can see one of them in the sample page above (that’s me). Brad invented a pair of great little characters who demonstrate their Airstream as I explain things in the text. I like looking at the pages just to see what they’re up to.
So I’m feeling good about my project now. It took as long as making a baby, and the birthing process will probably be just as exhausting, but like a baby, it’s well worth the effort. If the book does well, I’ve already got plans for a sequel on “Advanced Airstreaming” to produce next year. Time to go start another egg …